Significant numbers of children in the Balkans and the Caucasus remain among the most socially and economically vulnerable groups in the region. Children residing in residential institutions, children in the labour force, children with disabilities and special needs, children ‘home alone’ as a result of migrant parents, children in conflict with the law, children subject to domestic violence and children subject to trafficking and exploitation all represent children and young people who are predisposed to a life of poverty, vulnerability and violence.
One key element to combat child vulnerability of all types is the existence of government-run child protection and welfare services. A formal government system that links first responders to social workers and services builds a circle of protection that compliments family, community and civil society’s responses. As a safety net, government’s consistent presence and capacity in all communities nationwide provide the coverage necessary to minimize trafficking, respond to reports of exploitation or violence, provide welfare to situations of extreme poverty and make it possible for children in orphanages to return home with the right social and psychological support.
In early 2012, World Vision Middle East and Eastern Europe conducted research into the implementation of government policies related to child protection and welfare in the Balkans and Caucasus regions. The research report revealed that governments in the region had adopted sufficient laws and overarching policies that promise child protection and welfare services, but today there is insufficient implementation on the ground. In other words, World Vision found that there are embryonic community-based government services that do not conform to magnitude of the national need. As a result, many children in the most vulnerable situations do not have access to the services that could help protect them.
In response, World Vision has developed a regional advocacy strategy to increase the incentives for government action on behalf of children. World Vision’s strategy includes:
- Building government capacity to respond to the needs of children
- Providing recommendations to government to increase the quality and quantity of government services
- Using Romania’s successful reform efforts to build capacity and ideas within the rest of the region
- Engaging with the European Union (EU) to encourage high level political commitment and tangible reform developments in countries that desire closer ties to the EU
- Encouraging civil society’s voice in policy and advocacy to national governments
- Encouraging regional level advocacy by members of civil society to the EU and other key regional stakeholders
To further these goals, World Vision is a member of Child Pact – a regional coalition for child protection in the wider Black Sea area.